distilling herbs

distilling herbs

Monday, 4 August 2014

Distilling lemon balm

 Wikipedia: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
Last Thursday I had captured about 80 kg of fresh cuttings of lemon balm at the nursery of  www.puur-aroma.com . If you touch the leaves of lemon balm you get to smell a fresh lemon scent. You could therefore say 80 kg of cuttings is a lot to make some essential oil.
Melissa officinalis bron Wikipedia
But lemon balm has a very low yield. There is 8000 kg needed for liter of oil to make. So lemon balm oil and rose oil are the most expensive essential oils that are for sale. For me it was a challenge to see how many I could distill oil from this organic grown plant.
Lemon balm has to be freshly distilled, hence Friday I went right to work. The plants had been during the night in plastic bags. This allows the plants had become a bit damp. To allow the plants to dry before distilling I spread a  number of pockets on a large tarp to let them evaporate the moist.

After preparing for the distillation I could fill the kettle with 16 kg of lemon balm. Because of the low yield of oil to be expected, I collected the distillate (late oil and hydrosol) with a separatory funnel.
Because this was the first time I'd distilled lemon balm, I tried to prescribe the scents during the distillation.
I observed the following scents:
20 degrees Celsius: tea-like air
24 degrees Celcius fruity floral air
50 degrees Celcius heavy lemon air
Start van de destillatie
At 85 degrees Celsius the first drops of distillate came over. Lemon air was less but remained dominant. The temperature continued to rise during the distillation and fixed on about 96 degrees Celsius.
The hydrosol was remarkably cloudy. After 1 hour and 20 minutes distilling I smelled a baked-on vegetable scent and the hydrosol became clear. That seemed like a good time to stop the distillation.
citroenmelisse na de destillatie
The amount of oil that I that was collected in the separting funnel could be mentioned disappointing, but was expected. A total of three drops (0.15 mL) essential oil was recovered from,16 kg of oil from plants.
drie druppels citroenmelisse etherische olie
Maybe also explainable because the lemon balm was not really fresh when distilled. Erick and I have been in a delicious lemon air during transport from the nursery. That means that en route by touching and bagging plants there must have escaped some essential oil.
Lemon balm has produces the essential oil at the bottom of the leafs like as for example peppermint does in so-called oil-producing glands  With slight drying of the leaf will these microscopic glands tear and the plant loses its oil.
Lemon balm cuttings after one day
Yet this distillation has been valuable for me, though it was only for hydrosol. Jeanne Rose expert in the field of hydrosols describes it as follows:
This wonderfull fresh, lemonscented water is used for sensitive or aging skin, or spayed down the throat for many kinds of throat infections 

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